Diabetes is a growing problem in the UK.
While type 1 diabetes is something that develops in childhood – hence its other name of early-onset diabetes – type 2 can be brought on by certain lifestyle choices, most notably excess weight.
Recent data has shown that:
Adults carrying large bellies increase their chances of developing diabetes by up to five times.
Following this latest research, health officials in England are telling people to dust off their tape measures and check their waistlines in order to see if they are at risk, and if they are, to try to start losing weight as soon as possible.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition that involves problems around the hormone insulin. The role of insulin in the human body is to get energy-rich glucose into cells. Most cells cannot absorb glucose directly, so the pancreas produces insulin that attaches itself to glucose. This allows the glucose to become absorbed by cells and used as energy.
When a person’s body does not produce enough insulin, or the insulin does not work properly, the amount of glucose in blood increases to harmful levels, threatening health.
Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is something that usually becomes obvious in childhood or early adulthood, before the age of 40.
People with type 1 diabetes are unable to produce insulin. This is because the body’s immune system mistakenly targets and destroys cells in the pancreas that make insulin.
Type 2 diabetes
People with type two cannot produce enough insulin, or the insulin they do have is not used properly by the body.
There are several risk factors that will make you more susceptible to type 2 diabetes. These include:
- Age: If you are over the age of 40 you have a greater risk of developing the condition.
- Genetics: Having parents or other close relatives with type 2 diabetes increases your chances.
- Ethnic background: People who are of South Asian, Chinese or black-African origin carry a greater risk.
- Weight: Being overweight or obese is one of the biggest factors for developing type 2 diabetes.
Due to the excesses of modern living, the number of people with type 2 diabetes has increased throughout the Western world.
Predictions suggest that by 2030 in England alone, 4.6 million people (9.5% of the population) will have diabetes.
Research shows that carrying extra weight around the stomach particularly affects the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes. This is because fat around the abdomen produces chemicals that disrupt the body’s response to insulin.
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Weight loss and diabetes
The recent research from Public Health England (PHE) found that:
- Men with a waistline circumference of 102cm (40.2in) or more are five times more likely to develop diabetes.
- Women with a waistline circumference of 88cm (34.7in) are three times more likely to experience the condition.
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said that type 2 diabetes can develop into a serious condition, with consequences that include amputation and blindness.
She advises anyone at risk of type 2 diabetes to minimise their chances of developing the condition by eating a balanced diet and taking regular exercise, thereby losing weight, particularly around the waistline.